Group play drew to a close for half of the bracket in the singles tournament for the 2020 ATP Finals at O2 Arena in London on Thursday.
Dominic Thiem already qualified for the semifinals, making his match with Andrey Rublev a dead rubber. Rublev dropped his first two matches of the event, ruling out any chance of advancing.
Rafael Nadal's encounter with defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas carried plenty of stakes, however. The winner would claim the second semifinal bid from Group London 2020.
No. 7 Andrey Rublev def. No. 3 Dominic Thiem 6-2, 7-5
No. 2 Rafael Nadal def. No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 4-6, 6-2
Full draw and standings are available on the ATP Finals' official site.
Tsitsipas ran out of gas in the third set against Nadal, allowing the 20-time Grand Slam champion to secure passage to the semifinals.
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The first two sets couldn't have been much closer, with one service break in each frame accounting for who came out on top. The decisive set unfolded in far different fashion.
Tsitsipas opened and immediately dropped serve, the first of three straight games that ended in a service break. The 22-year-old struggled with his serve throughout the set. He missed with 55 percent of his first serves, which led him to go 3-of-11 on second-service points, per the ATP Finals' official site.
Nadal, on the other hand, was firing on all cylinders after Tsitsipas tied the match. This incredible backhand volley was an example of how everything was working for the Spaniard:
Tsitsipas prolonged the set slightly by denying Nadal on the first match point. On his second opportunity, Nadal fired a backhand winner down the line.
An ATP Finals is one of the few achievements Nadal has yet to cross off the career checklist. He was runner-up in 2010 and 2013. Maybe 2020 is the year he lifts the trophy.
In the first set against Rublev, Thiem looked like somebody who had nothing to gain regardless of the outcome. He dropped his first two service games, which allowed Rublev to go ahead 5-1 en route to easily taking the set.
Thiem was refocused for the second set and earned a crucial break while trailing 3-4. He held serve in the next game to go up 5-4, but Rublev quickly leveled the set at five all.
The 11th game included 15 points and this lengthy rally.
Rublev eventually wore Thiem down and then maintained serve to end his ATP Finals on a high note.
"There are still so many things I can improve," Rublev said after the match, per the ATP Tour's official site. "That’s the main goal in the off-season. Now I’m really motivated to improve the main parts [of my game] before we start the new season."